2018 was a belter as we saw Colin Turkington become a triple BTCC champion, Gary Paffett take Mercedes’ final title in the DTM and Scott McLaughlin put the pain of last year to bed by becoming DJR Team Penske’s first Supercars drivers champion in Newcastle. As the dust settles on another epic season of touring car racing, and the announcements about 2019 plans start to come thick and fast, I’ve reflected on the 2018 seasons in the BTCC, DTM and Supercars championships and picked out some of my favourite races.
BTCC Brands Hatch Indy Race 2
Race two of the 2018 BTCC season was a classic. In a wet-dry race at Brands Hatch Indy, Senna Proctor took his first BTCC race victory after a pre-race gamble to choose slick tyres on a wet but drying track paid off. Proctor started the race from 27th on the grid as the vast majority of the grid chose to start on wet tyres. The slick tyre runners including Proctor struggled initially, sliding off-track in the wet conditions. However as the track started to dry the wet tyre runners struggled, and Proctor, along with the other slick cars came into his own. He took the lead of the race after passing Aiden Moffatt on the penultimate lap of the race and never looked back, crossing the line in 1st to secure a memorable win.
DTM Hockenheim Race 2
The DTM has produced some brilliant battles over the years and race two at Hockenheim in the season opener was no different. It was one of the best DTM races in recent years as Timo Glock, Gary Paffett, Joel Eriksson and Mike Rockenfeller battled for victory until the very last lap of the race. Eventual race winner Glock engaged in a thrilling battle with Mercedes’ Paffett in the final stint of the race, with the pair trading places courtesy of DRS for a number of laps. As Glock and Paffett battled, Eriksson and Rockenfeller closed up and set up the best ending to a DTM race for a number of years. Glock prevailed and went on to win the race, followed by Rockenfeller in 2nd and Paffett 3rd.
Supercars Bathurst 1000
Like many touring car fans, Bathurst is always the weekend I look forward to most. The 2018 running of the world’s greatest touring car race provided all the drama, highs and lows we’ve become so used to, and Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards prevailed in an emotional finale to the race. It was in some ways fitting that Lowndes would take his seventh Bathurst title in his final race as a full-time driver, but the final stints were also an emotional watch for Erebus fans, who saw leader David Reynolds cramp up with just 30 laps to go. Bathurst and late-race drama go hand in hand and 2018 was no different. It was awful to see Reynolds and Erebus just miss their chance to go back-to-back at Bathurst, but if anyone else was going to win it, it had to be Lowndes.
Supercars Newcastle 500 (Saturday)
Despite the initial doubts and opposition to the idea, I think the Newcastle 500 has turned into a brilliant season-closer for Supercars, and 2018 was no exception. Race 30 of the season made the headlines on the Sunday for all the wrong reasons as a post-race penalty relegated winner Shane Van Gisbergen to 5th place. But Saturday’s race was a nail-biter, as Van Gisbergen passed championship rival Scott McLaughlin with two corners remaining to take the victory. The move came after SVG had lost the effective race lead after a fuel miscue by Triple Eight, but he came in a second time under yellows for a short pitstop which eventually secured his victory.
The SydneySupernight was a brilliant spectacle, and seeing this generation of V8 Supercars under the lights at Sydney Motorsport Park, along with some great racing ensures that the Supernight remains one of my favourite races of the season. Scott McLaughlin started the race on pole, but a late-race safety car set the stage for a thrilling final stint and battle to the line in which title rival Shane Van Gisbergen prevailed. After the safety car restart McLaughlin initially looked to be pulling away from the chasing pack, however, he was quickly reigned in by SVG and a brilliant four-way, four-lap battle ensued between McLaughlin, SVG, Whincup and Lowndes. Van Gisbergen passed McLaughlin on lap 68, three laps after he nearly lost control trying to pass on the dirt, and car #97 led teammate Whincup home in a memorable Triple Eight one-two.
BTCC Rockingham Race 2
Race two at Rockingham doesn’t make my list courtesy of an epic battle for the lead, but instead, it makes it because of Tom Ingram’s dramatic rise from 27th on the grid to 3rd, for the second round in a row. Just a few weeks after Ingram snatched a sensational 3rd from 27th in race two at Snetterton he did it all over again in a race which saw him reclaim the points lead from Colin Turkington. Ingram ended the race 5 seconds behind eventual race winner Ash Sutton, but he stole the show with one of the best performances of the season.
DTM Misano Race 1
I don’t know what it is about night racing, but it always brings an extra helping of glamour, excitement and sense of occasion to a weekend, and Misano was no different. Race one at Misano in Italy bought with it the biggest change of momentum in the championship so far as Paul di Resta secured victory in a race full of overtaking, excitement and incidents. In wet but drying conditions di Resta overcame a poor start whilst main championship rival Paffett failed to score after clashing on cold tires with Edoardo Mortara. The race was won after di Resta, Mortara and BMW’s Phillip Eng came together at turn 9 on lap 25 with the Scot coming off the better to lead Audi’s Robin Frijns home by 2 seconds.
BTCC Brands Hatch Grand Prix Race 3
The final round of the 2018 BTCC season was an unbelievable way to end the year. With the driver’s title already sewn up by Colin Turkington in race two, there was nothing but pride to play for and the BTCC delivered once again. Former Triple Eight MG teammates Ash Sutton and Josh cook engaged in a thrilling battle to the line, which ended on the final lap as Sutton threw his Subaru Levorg around the outside of Cook’s Vauxhall Astra at Clearways to begin a drag race to the line. Sutton prevailed to take the win after a race where he carved through the field, passing Rob Austin and Tom Chilton on his way to the bumper of Cook. The first 10 cars crossed the line in just over 3 seconds in what was an amazing way to end the season.
Supercars Winton Raceway (Sunday)
Race one at Winton makes my list more on emotion than excitement. Sunday at Winton Raceway saw Rick Kelly take his first victory in 210 Supercars races, and an important win for Nissan who had announced their departure from Supercars earlier in the week. Rick Kelly benefitted from a late safety car restart after Tim Blanchard’s Commodore became stuck at turn four of lap 31 courtesy of contact with Simona de Silvestro. After the restart, leader McLaughlin slid wide at turn one which allowed Kelly to pull alongside along the straight and outbrake McLaughlin into turn three. The win was Nissan’s first since 2016 and capped an rollercoaster week for the Braeside team.
BTCC Snetterton Race 1
Snetterton was a weekend of celebration for the BTCC as the series celebrated its 60th anniversary with the famous diamond double race in race three. However, it was a thrilling race one which stole the show as Ash Sutton’s rocket start from 9th on the grid set up an edge of your seat battle with Eurotech’s Jack Goff in treacherous conditions. Goff led every lap of the race from pole position but it was behind where the action unfolded. Sutton’s charge from 9th to 2nd was already brilliant, but he reeled in Goff spectacularly over the final few laps which resulted in one of the best final laps of recent years. Goff looked like he was just able to hold on until he ran wide at the Bomb Hole and allowed Sutton to pull alongside, and to the inside for Coram and the final corner. When all looked lost for Goff, he undercut Sutton and won the drag race to the line to win the race by just 0.1 seconds.
What was your favourite race of 2018? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!